Trump praises US military sales in talks with Saudi crown prince
WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump on Tuesday praised U.S. defence sales to Saudi Arabia as a boost to American jobs, even as lawmakers criticised Riyadh’s role in the war in Yemen where a humanitarian crisis has unfolded.
In Oval Office talks, Trump and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed an agreement last year for $200 billion worth of Saudi investments with the United States, including large purchases of U.S. military equipment. Trump said the military sales contributed to the creation of 40,000 American jobs.
The talks were part of the first visit by the prince to the United States since he became the heir apparent last June to succeed King Salman. Prince Mohammed has consolidated power and is likely to rule for many decades if he succeeds his father.
Trump produced charts to show the depth of Saudi purchases of U.S. military hardware, ranging from ships to missile defence to planes and fighting vehicles.
“The relationship now is probably as good as it’s really ever been and I think will probably only get better. Tremendous investments made in our country and that means jobs for our workers,” Trump told reporters during a picture-taking session with the crown prince.
As they talked, U.S. senators debated a resolution seeking an end to U.S. support for Saudi Arabia’s campaign in Yemen’s civil war. Some members of Congress have been critical of the Saudi campaign, particularly the humanitarian situation and civilian casualties.
A Saudi-led coalition is fighting to counter the influence of Iran, an ally of the Houthi militia, who deny any help from Tehran and say they are fighting a revolution against corrupt politicians and Gulf powers in thrall to the West.
The crown prince, in a rare foray into speaking English, said the Saudi pledge for $200 billion in investments will end up at $400 billion when fully implemented. He said a 10-year window for implementing the deal was already underway.
“This is a signal that there (are) a lot of things (that) could be tackled in the close future and more opportunities. And that’s why we are here today, to be sure that we’ve tackled all the opportunities and achieve it and also get rid of all the threats facing our both countries,” he said.
The two leaders were also expected to discuss tensions with Iran, Riyadh’s regional arch-rival and a country Trump has repeatedly criticized for its expansionist policies in the Middle East.